EduTECH Day One reflection

Video reflection 1 – Before the trip!


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A great way to start day one, framing the consumption and creation of digital content in a global context. What does it mean for educators?


I felt honoured sitting in the great hall and having the chance to hear from Eric Mazur in person. It was very clear from the onset that Mazur doesn’t value memorising content via rote learning practices. He framed this with his anecdote about meeting a woman on a plane that was developing a cloud based flash card solution. Cleary making the distinction that this practice is rote. What does this mean for our study practices and techniques? Is this the technique that is flawed or the assessment process of an examination? I know where I stand!

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Mazur has found only 35% of the content would be retained after one week of using the flash card app.  This highlights the fact the memorisation doesn’t constitute deep learning.

Mazur moves to discuss something that I believe is critical for all schools and that is,  ‘flipping our understanding of assessment’. Mazur highlights the fact that our current assessment practices are used for only ranking and clarifying students. I tend to agree that we don’t focus on how our assessment develops 21st century learning skills. How do we change this? Is assessment the silent killer of learning?

Mazur asks the audience about the purpose of assessment, we came up with these;

  • to inform the teacher as tyo what to do next
  • to rank students
  • to identify gaps
  • to inform students of where they fit
  • to find out their learning needs
  • to track progession of skills
  • to interrogate content
  • to inform quality of teaching
  • to find out what they already know

Mazur gives a framework for assessment: Purpose, Problem, Improvements. Usually our assessments focus on inauthentic problem solving. Lets take examinations, why would we use a standardised test to rank our students, which in turn kills all innovation? What learning occurs here?

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Mazur uses a physics problem to identify the issues within an inauthentic task and how this relates to the lowest stage of Blooms taxonomy. He highlights the most obvious concern with this target, goggle can answer this.  He also points out that the problem requires students to make assumptions, develop a model and apply that model. If we make the assumptions it kills our students ability to analyse and evaluate their thinking and frames their thinking at the memorising stage. He points out the need to focus on authentic problems and how this can open a dialogue for collaboration with students.

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He shares this picture and asks us what this images represents, stress, anxiety, not fun and most importantly ISOLATION! If a key aspect of the 21st century is collaboration why on earth would we get students to learn in this way? It doesn’t make any sense. How is this an authentic experience of real life problem solving skills.

‘If you pose a question that can be googled its not really an authentic assessment question.’

Mazur also points out that high stake examinations promote cramming information that will be stored in our short term memory.

‘no retention, no transfer’.

Mazur states, ‘I have my students right now ‘cramming’ for examinations that are worth 50% of their assessment. What authentic learning is occurring? What if we changed this and examinations focused on students collaborating’. Mazur explained how his students sit an ‘examination’. Mazur further explains ‘They start individually, then its team time where they share and debate and work out solutions to shape their responses.’ He notes that students can also bring in anything to his ‘examinations’. What you see is authentic learning.  Amazing – what if Caulfield exams were like this?

Assessment produces a conflict – are we the coach or judge? 
Teachers hide behind a thin veil of objectivity.
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Eric Mazur ©

How to improve assessments

  1. Mimic real life: How learners learn – make it open, collaborative; students teaching each other in an exam – if you get it wrong the first time, try a second time or a third time for reduced marks. 

Check out teambasedlearning.org

2. Focus on feedback not ranking – objective ranking is a myth!

3. Focus on skills not content: apply backwards design, understanding by design. Think about the desired outcomes, what is the evidence that I am going to accept, what will my students be able to do?

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Eric Mazur ©
  1. Coach or judge? Use external evaluators, peer and self assessment should be a focus.

Check out cpr.molsci.ucla.edu
There needs to be a call to action. We must rethink assessment,  if we do not rethink our approaches to assessment we will continue to educate the followers of yesterday rather than the leaders of tomorrow.

Very lucky to have a chat with Eric after Edu TECH today.

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Larry Rosenstock,  from High Tech High. Amazing look at project based learning and a fully autonomous learning environment.


After day one reflection


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